UCI Treated Douglass Fairly; It’s Time to Break Out of the Mediocrity

Pat Douglass was not a bad coach at UCI. Overreacting fans (although at least they are reacting at all) calling for his head need to realize this.

Every year, Douglass put together a team that was competitive in the Big West, a team that was prepared for each game to the best of their ability. The players he recruited were of good character. UC Irvine basketball was never embroiled in the scandals and shames of schools like Binghamton and USC (those clamoring for the hire of Tim Floyd should stop endorsing such a cheater).

Douglass had his glory years. In 2001, the team ran off a stellar 25-5 record, and Douglass was named Big West Coach of the Year. They rattled off a 15-1 record in the Big West, when the Big West was a stronger conference featuring teams such as Utah State. 2002 saw another conference championship, and 2003 made it three straight years of 20 wins. In 2005, UCI beat No. 13 Stanford in Palo Alto. Two years ago, Darren Fells and Patrick Sanders led the fifth seeded ’Eaters to the Big West Finals for the first time in Douglass’ career. So UCI was not keeping Douglass around so long that he became the coach with the most wins in school history for no reason.

When Douglass was hired in 1997 (he was picked over none other than Ben Howland, the current UCLA head coach who at the time was at Northern Arizona), UCI only had one winning season since 1988. Rod Baker’s disastrous regime had seen the ’Eaters finish 1-25 the year before. Douglass has unquestionably left the ’Eaters in a better spot than when he took over.

That being said, it was time for UCI to make a change. Like in men’s volleyball, soccer and baseball, basketball cannot accept mediocrity any longer, and strive for something more. Douglass’ methodologies had plateaued, especially on the recruiting trail.

What exactly does the University of Northern Iowa have that UC Irvine does not? Adam Rodenberg, a senior at UNI this season during their magical run, played at UC Irvine two years ago before transferring because of homesickness. Even though he did not get any playing time in the Tournament, he got a lot of TV time jumping in excitement. Was there no way that Rodenberg could have experienced an NCAA Tournament appearance at UCI?

Irvine offers a solid education, a great living place in Southern California, and a quality arena in the Bren Events Center. Although Crawford might be aging, the ARC still provides excellent facilities. While the Big West is not the Pac-10 by any means, it should at least be able to match up to the Missouri Valley Conference.

There has been talk on UCI having high academic requirements. Compared to other academic powerhouse schools like Cal and Duke, UCI offers little in the ways of easy majors. Numerous players, such as would-be recruit Brandon Durham, have not been able to attend UCI due to not qualifying academically. That being said, the ultimate blame falls on the head coach. The coaching staff is ultimately the general manager and manager in one. Every player is on the team because the coach specifically wanted him to be.

Public figures on Douglass’ salary put the number over $280,000. This is in line with salaries offered by other mid-major schools. Mike Izzi has really delivered with his hirings of Paula Weishoff for women’s volleyball, Molly Goodenbour for women’s basketball, and Mike Gillespie for baseball. All three have hit the ground running, almost immediately bringing about improvement or sustained success in their respective sports. There is no reason Anteater basketball cannot also consistently be in the top half of the Big West.

With that being said, The Payoff Pitch would like to endorse Eric Reveno from Portland University. If we could somehow pull him away from the WCC, where he has dramatically improved the Pilots program, it would be a huge get for ’Eater basketball. Rated one of the Top 25 Recruiters by rivals.com in 2006, Reveno would immediately address Irvine’s greatest weakness. He also is a younger guy that can relate to the college scene. If Reveno cannot be had, these attributes are something the new coach should embody.

Thank you Coach Douglass for your time. Now, it’s in Mike Izzi we trust.